A friend of mine used
to ask his girlfriend to go into the local record
shop in his place whenever he wanted to pick up a guilty
pleasuresay, a new Rancid CDand he was afraid
of being recognized by his friends who worked there. If
he tries to recruit her to pick up Andrew W.K.'s CD, she'll
probably try to send someone else in her place.
The cover is designed to
raise an eyebrow: a head shot of Andrew, long locks hanging
in his face, bleeding copiously from his nose. Turn it
over and there's another photo of the man, arms crossed
and glowering, giving the impression that he spent his
formative years in front of a mirror doing Danzig impersonations.
Open it up for more: a photo of Andrew's band in the customary
bad-ass poses, although the mood is somewhat offset by
the fact that they're standing around in a suburban kitchen.
Then there's the song titles: "It's Time To Party," "Party
Hard," "Take It Off," "Party Til You Puke," "Don't Stop
Living In The Red," and "Fun Night" let you know that,
at the very least, you'll be spared the post-Nirvana watered-down
angst of bands like Staind. If the total effect is calculated
to make you think "dumb metal," you're basically correct.
But the packaging gives no clue as to just how over the
top the music is. Think of the bombast of early Kiss crossed
with the pure pop of the Ramones, double the tempos, and
then blow it up to the most outscale proportions possible.
The songs are simple; they're the type of riffs that you
brought to your eighth-grade band saying, "Hey guys, check
out this song I just wrote!" Andrew's thoroughly multi-tracked
vocals are hoarsely shouted (although not as rough as
Lemmy's, for example). There's no attempt at clever wordplay
or flowery metaphor: the chorus for "I Love NYC" is simply
"I love New York City/Oh yeah, New York City." What makes
it all work so well is the lengths to which this approach
is taken. Doing successful moronic party rock in this
day and age takes massive cojones and the urge to top
all antecedents, and Andrew W.K. appears up to the task.
The key is the production; everything on this album
is pushed up as far as it will go, while at the same time
boiling it down to its essence (when was the last time
you heard a quote-unquote metal album without a single
guitar solo?). Keyboards are shunned by most hard rock
bands these days as a sign of wimpiness, but not by Andrew;
they're merely one more instrument he can use to beef
up his wall of sound. Listen to the title track: it's
as if all the members of the Go-Gos morphed into coke-snorting
The line Andrew walks between
exhilarating party rock and overblown cheese is a fine
one; "Got To Do It," on which the keyboard-dominant mix
induces uncomfortable flashbacks of bands like Survivor
and Europe, demonstrate the pitfalls of letting the monolithic
approach slip. But that's the only misstep on the record.
If there was one knowing wink to reassure too-cool-for-school
hipsters that he knows better, it would undercut the whole
deal. I'm thankful that there's not. Sure, this is a goofy
album, but it's irresistable as all hell. Quit worrying
if that smile on your face means that you're enjoying
something you shouldn't.